The future-forward contact centre

Johannesburg, 24 Mar 2021
Read time 5min 30sec
Brett Butler, Managing Director of Southern Africa, Avaya.
Brett Butler, Managing Director of Southern Africa, Avaya.

With its low barrier to entry and quick-to-market turnaround time, creating a technology-first customer experience suite using CCaaS (contact centre as a service) is king.

What is your approach when it comes to the future of your company’s contact centre? Does your digital strategy dictate going directly into the cloud or are you simply considering opening up new customer service channels? Either way, CCaaS could provide the answer.

“CCaaS is a software model that allows organisations to acquire the applications and technologies that they need to meet their customer experience strategies,” explains Brett Butler, managing director for South Africa at Avaya. The software model is ultimately what defines CCaaS, and its architecture could be on-prem, hybrid or out of the cloud. “Typically, CCaaS is delivered out of the cloud – it is referred to as cloud-based or cloud-first.”

The coronavirus pandemic saw companies already on a cloud journey scaling up their unified communications as a service (UCaaS) to enable remote working, business continuity and connecting with customers. This has played its part in increasing acceptance of the idea of pure-cloud CCaaS.

“You could almost argue that UCaaS is now being enhanced with CCaaS capabilities,” says Butler. “The bottom line is that remote work is going to stay, and so organisations have bought into cloud-first collaboration tools that enable this. So we're seeing organisations looking at how they can benefit from similar features – like fast time-to-market, and the ability to easily compose CX solutions out of rich ecosystems – in the contact centre. Many organisations are still playing around with these concepts, but the challenges in terms of technology are becoming fewer.”

Moving mainstream into CCaaS

Contact centres have always been tightly aligned to business processes and technologies like AI, automation, data analytics, Web services – and the explosion of the API and SDK economies have made it easier to enhance CCaaS platforms. The South African market, however, is not mainstream.

“Businesses are taking a phased approach when it comes to speeding up digital transformation projects. When they want to start bringing new channels to market, maybe servicing customers a little bit differently using automation or chatbots, they’re looking to CCaaS to help them with that,” says Butler.

By opening up new customer service channel possibilities, CCaaS allows businesses to rapidly deploy and test. Using similar technologies, on-premises can become a costly affair. In addition to this, the time to market is far greater – which is one of the many reasons CCaaS is so appealing.

“The biggest inhibitor is for larger customers. There’s a lot of bespoke integration and that’s always been the case with the contact centre. They have to think about legacy integration. The companies that have adopted other cloud solutions, like CRM systems, are more open and will probably be more readily adopting CCaaS moving forward because it's easier to integrate to other cloud solutions. The organisations that still have a lot of legacy on-premises and business applications need to think a bit more carefully about their CCaaS providers, as they need to ensure the integration can happen seamlessly,” explains Butler.

Agents on the edge

One of the reasons South Africa is behind in the global race towards widespread CCaaS adoption is because of regulatory and compliance issues as well as where our data is stored. A lack of public data centres has traditionally meant organisations wanting to keep their data local, on the edge, simply couldn’t. But things are changing.

“Moving your voice routing to the cloud was thought of as a bit of a sticky issue in terms of voice quality, but technology improvements mean that this is no longer an inhibitor. And actually, one of the things that COVID has shown is that organisations already on the CCaaS journey find it a lot easier to put their agents on the edge,” says Butler. “We’re also starting to see a shift of digital channels into CCaaS – social and corporate chat capabilities from an organisation’s app on a mobile device, for example – because it’s that much easier to deploy.”

Voice is still predominantly on-premises for South Africa, but with the advent of local data centres and technologies to help keep voice local, Butler predicts voice routing to be the next phase of CCaaS in the cloud: “Voice gateways will be able to keep voice local. It will be compliant and also bring greater improvements to voice quality for customer service going forward.”

Leveraging the API economy

Because CCaaS is extensible, integrating third-party apps via API is easier too. For example, leveraging Google’s CCAI suite for natural language processing or enhancing agent experience using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) is possible. Remote work has also brought surrounding technologies, like gamification, to workforce engagement management suites, as well as much-needed data analytics.

“Organisations have been collecting data for a long time now, but don't necessarily have the engines and the wherewithal to be able to crunch this data and then re-use it. A lot of CCaaS vendors are creating those capabilities as a service now and giving access to data via open APIs,” explains Butler. “Better data structures can be used to enhance the customer experience – reaching out to customers at the right time with the right information.”

Indeed, with a low barrier to entry and quick to market turnaround time, CCaaS means SMEs could have access to the same capabilities as larger corporates.

“Understanding what we can do with data and getting actionable insights out of it is invaluable for organisations of any size in terms of understanding customer experience. Customer experience is critical to any organisation and it doesn't matter how big or small you are… you want to be perceived as a large player. To give that impression in your contact with your customers, CCaaS is key,” says Butler.